Birdhouses are a simple addition to your yard that can provide nesting places for many kinds of birds and weeks of wildlife-watching opportunities. Cavity-nesters, like tree swallows, house wrens, blackcapped chickadees, Eastern bluebirds, wood ducks, and American kestrels, all use nest boxes. The type of birds you might attract depends on the size of the box and the nearby habitat; some birds prefer open fields while others prefer forests or wetlands.
If you already have a box or two, fall is a good time for maintenance. The nesting season has ended, so check your boxes to make sure they are clean and in good repair for next year. If you’re thinking about building and installing a new box, now is actually the perfect time to get started. A box put up in the fall or winter will be ready to go as soon as nesting season begins in the spring. Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch for expert nest box tips.
Photo at top: Tree swallow. Photo by Katherine Yard. Photo provided by the DEC.
The rail trail in Highland, NY is lined with birdhouses
Leave your bird boxes up and some birds will make them into a winter sanctuary by stuffing them full with ‘warm’ materials and using them to stay warm and dry through the cold winter.
Most people likely leave their boxes up – why bother to take them down? If you leave the hole without reinforcement, it may be “enlarged” by a notorious toothy rodent (NOT a beaver!). Not only can they provide shelter from storms, many migrating species that use boxes scout their territory in Fall for “new” homes that they may need in the Spring. They are all mapped out in their minds when they head south.
There has been a dramatic loss of Tree Swallows (TRES) in my vicinity, so I have modified several boxes to keep out not only House Sparrows (HOSP), but even Bluebirds (BB) that seem to be becoming increasingly aggressive toward TRES. TRES have better brood success with a box with a slightly larger floor than a typical BB box. They also like additional feeding holes, and even a full-width rectangular gap at the top of the door instead of an entry hole. Put out a variety and see which boxes your birds prefer!
If you are looking to attract TRES, I would also discard the practice of putting up two BB boxes 10 feet apart. In my experience over the last 10 years, the BBs just harass and even attack any TRES looking at the open box. I suspect BBs are so used to getting beat up by HOSP that they have become more aggressive in certain areas close to HOSP infestations.